One of the best things about my job at the moment has been spending lots of time with people who work in consumer branding and marketing. No, wait, really... hear me out. Yes, I work in the internet, and specifically how to use it to achieve social change through grassroots campaigning and providing better services. I've also been part of the social enterprise sector for a few years, and written a few bits of policy advice, and between all these worlds I've met a lot of amazing people who want to use the power of business and media to change the world.
What's striking though is how little awareness there is in the social sector of the tools and techniques that are used every day to launch and grow international brands. It's almost as if, just because it's good for you, it has to be boring. Or, if it's commercial, it can't be changing the world.
But why can't a better world be fashionable, or aspirational, just like a new bar or a great pair of trainers? Why can't social enterprise be as fun as www.springwise.com? And more to the point, why can't we harness the awesome skills and powers of big brand marketeers to sell things that heal the sick, help the poor, or make our society work better for all of us?
I used to look down from my worthy pedestal on my friends in advertising, lifestyle magazines and brand management. Now I'm asking for their help. With Mindapples, we're asking everyone to choose a 5-a-day for their minds, with the ultimate aim of making looking after our minds as natural as brushing our teeth. It isn't a social project, it's cultural: we're building a new social trend, starting conversations, influencing culture and habits to change the way people live. Looked at from the right angle, Mindapples is actually a rebranding project: we're taking the concept of "mental health" and turning it from something frightening and depressing into something everyone wants to buy.
As we get closer to another election, someone said to me recently that the Government like to think they run the country, but really they're just the janitors. They make sure the heating's turned on, and the bins are emptied. If you want to influence the hearts and minds of people, speak to Nike, Ikea, or Pepsico. Just imagine what might happen if all those channels for influence were being used to build the world we all want to live in?